My favorite band is Pearl Jam and I have been lucky enough to have seen them live in concert twice. They are a band I will go see live every chance I get because every show is different and exciting. Aside from a few staples, such as “Even Flow” and “Alive” for example, they play a varied set list that reaches across their entire discography and I must emphasize entire. They are not afraid to take on songs that they have played only a few times before because it was merely recorded as a b-side on an early single. In addition to their own music, they will usually play a cover of an artist they like, such as The Who or Neil Young. But the variety of songs they play is not what makes them a great live band either. It’s how they play the songs differently and with excitement every time. Mike McCready offers an extended solo for several songs every night, Eddie Vedder will sing altered lyrics or not sing at all so the crowd can take over and sometimes Matt Cameron will deliver a drum solo. But they do so much more in their live performances that make them so unique that they are all offered as a download on the bands website.
Another band I have seen twice is Kings of Leon. They are a solid band and I enjoy their music. I saw them headline Madison Square Garden a few years ago when it was their biggest show ever because they just became popular. I cannot say the same for this band as I said for Pearl Jam. Seeing them live is just going to hear their songs played exactly as you would on a CD except now it’s live. The guitar solos are the same as they are on the album just like everything else is as well. They played only their songs and only the ones that appeared on albums. Their lead singer Caleb Followill didn’t offer much interaction with the crowd except for the mandatory “How are you doing tonight (insert city here).”
Now I did not introduce these two bands so that I could exclaim my love for Pearl Jam and my distaste for Kings of Leon. I used these two as examples of the different types of live acts a band can be. There are the bands that are like Pearl Jam and use their live sets to show their personality. Foo Fighters are a band like this. They played covers as Dave Grohl had fun with the audience and there was no telling what would happen next. Then there are bands like Kings of Leon who do not take chances and play their songs exactly the same as you hear them on the CD. Rise Against is a band like this. I am not a fan of Rise Against but they were playing at my school’s Fall Fest for free so I gave it a shot. Their songs were played exactly the same as you hear them on the radio.
I am not suggesting that either style is better than the other. That really depends on what you prefer. I however do not see the point of spending 50 bucks to see a band live if it is just going to sound like the album except with added cheers and applause. I suppose that there is a certain energy when listening to the music while in the midst of a frantic crowd but for me that is not enough. For a band to change up their songs live is to show their personality and character. Otherwise to me, they might as well be machines that pump out what is expected and offer no creative twist.